A concreter who turned to heroin to manage back pain suffered on the job has won more than $820,000 in damages.
Dominic Fischetti, 50, was a self-employed concreter subcontracting on a project in Nicholls when the injury occurred in 2005.
Mr Fischetti was asked to load three large pieces of concrete onto a truck, damaging his back in the process.
He reported feeling something go in his back and suffered severe lower back and right leg pain in the days and weeks after.
Mr Fischetti continued to work for three months, but decided to seek medical treatment after the pain did not improve.
A scan revealed a disc protrusion and he was advised to think about a new career. But he had only ever been a concreter and was unqualified for other work, so continued in his job for another two years.
He managed the pain with painkillers for a time, but his back became steadily worse. Mr Fischetti then began using morphine tablets, smoking opium, and injecting heroin, which he found provided more effective relief.
The court heard his heroin use lasted for about eight months before he quit and joined a methadone program, which he was still on at the time of the hearing.
The defendant company became critical of the speed he worked at and, in 2008, he began to receive less work. Mr Fischetti stopped work altogether at the end of 2008 because he could not cope.
In 2010, police took him to Canberra Hospital suffering from depression.
The court heard that before the accident he had been fit and active, playing soccer, body building, fishing and camping in his spare time.
He launched action against defendant company Classic Constructions, alleging it negligently breached a duty of care not to expose him to risk of injury.
But the company argued Mr Fischetti had contributed to the injury through his own negligence.
The defence legal team said the plaintiff should have undertaken a risk assessment before lifting the concrete, should have obtained suitable equipment, did not take adequate precautions, and had failed to take reasonable care.
But Supreme Court Master David Harper rejected the argument, finding Mr Fischetti was not guilty of contributory negligence. Master Harper, in a judgment published this week, said the defendant owed a duty of care to take precautions against the risk of the injury that Mr Fischetti suffered.
"The available precautions were very simple. The concrete could have been cut into smaller pieces. More men could have been assigned to the task. A bobcat or some other mechanical means could have been used to move the pieces," Master Harper wrote.
"The risk of injury should have been apparent to someone in the position of the defendant, as should the likely seriousness of the harm which might flow.''
Master Harper ordered that Mr Fischetti receive $822,641.